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Thai grilled chicken is a popular dish available on most street corners in Thailand. Other street vendors travel from neighborhood to neighborhood with a trail of smoke offering grilled chicken and sticky rice. Similar to KFC, some restaurants make their fame entirely on their special grilled chicken recipes.
The popular styles of grilled chicken come and go. When I was kid, chicken baked in a heap of straw was the flavor of the era. I still remember the distinct aroma from burning straw. That style eventually waned. Many regional styles of grilled chicken also made their names all over the country. Some emphasize on the marinade. Others make their name through spicy dipping sauces. Recently, 5-Star Chicken (ไก่ย่างห้าดาว ), a franchise restaurant from a deep pocket conglomerate like CP Group, planned to bring their grilled chicken to the rest of Asia.
When ordering grilled chicken in Thailand, there are 2 types of chicken, Thai or farm raised chicken (native or foreign). Thai chickens have long necks and legs. The meat is lean, firm and full of flavor. Farm raised chickens are meatier, fatter and more tender. Thai grilled chicken is drier, more cooked than American grilled chicken.
All these grilled chicken vendors, big and small, have their own secret recipes, which are generally based on a common core. The base ingredients are salt, peppercorn, garlic and cilantro root. In this recipe, I add lemongrass to give the Thai spice aroma. Other ingredients in secret and not-so-secret recipes include shallots, pandan leaves, soy sauce and even milk. You can build your own secret recipe from this basic recipe. What ingredients will you add to your recipe?
Serve the grilled chicken with green papaya salad and sticky rice.
Win this rice cooker! See details below.
For the longest time, a standard rice cooker has had a metal inner pot with a Teflon coating. While the teflon is effectively non-stick, it scratches off and recently I have heard concerns about eating Teflon. Since I’ve also heard people are starting look at stainless steel rice cookers, I had to test one. I contacted Miracle Exclusive and received an 8-cup rice cooker with stainless steel inner pot for testing. Please note that discussing food safety relating to cooking with Teflon is beyond the scope of this article.
Sour Bamboo Curry is a curry that I make quite often because I love the subtle sourness of the pickled bamboo shoots that seems to tame the heat from the red curry paste. The previously pale bamboo shoot slices pick up some color and now sit pretty in a pot with floating red oil. The sour bamboo shoots absorb the spices while give up the pickling property to flavor the curry.
The distinct taste and smell of Sour Bamboo Curry takes me back to Thailand. A street food hawker on a sidewalk with gigantic pots of curries and other dishes is sure have this Sour Bamboo Curry. The curry is often a favorite in cafeterias. But you rarely find the curry in Thai restaurants inside or outside of Thailand.
When I make Sour Bamboo Curry, at lunchtime, I sit down with a plate of rice, Sour Bamboo Curry on top and a chili fish sauce on the side. I'm tasting home again.
Outside of cosmopolitan Bangkok, bamboo groves grow along the edges of rice fields, around people's homes, in the woods and up on the hills. The shoots are cut and trucked into Bangkok in the middle of the night. They're ready for chefs and housewives early in the morning when the markets convene. Some of the harvest turn into pickled bamboo shoots or Sour Bamboo shoots.
A young bamboo shoot is sliced thin and pickled in a simple brine of water and salt. It takes about 3 days to 2 weeks for the pickle to mature. The pickled shoots don't smell or look very attractive but the extra dimension that the pickling process brings out makes Sour Bamboo Shoots an important ingredients in several dishes such as Sour Bamboo Curry and Southern Sour Curry.
A good sour bamboo should not have a strong sour smell. The bamboo should be thinly sliced and tender. They come in a plastic and glass jar in a clear brine.
A Thai riddle: what has 2 legs walking but when stops and settles down has 6 legs?
South Asian immigrants in Thailand seem to monopolize the fried bean street food business. When I was growing up, a South Asian man would walk around carrying a small table with long legs on his head. The table had sections, each filled with various fried beans along with chopped green onion, chili pepper and salt. When you'd ask him for some beans and he'd take the table off of his head, set it down and get out a small plastic bag. You could choose from fried mung beans, fried peanuts, fried fava beans and fried peas.
My favorite is the fried mung beans. The crunchiness of the beans mixed with the aroma of the green onion and chili peppers make them addictive. Each bite is a little salty and spicy. I can inhale a little bag of 3-5 teaspoons in no time.
Answer to the riddle: a mung bean vendor
Now in the 21st century, the South Asian immigrants still monopolize the fried bean business. The table, though, is gone, replaced with a plastic basket. The sight of a bean vendor with plastic basket is not as romantic as the table, but the fried beans are as addictive as ever.
One of the questions that we get from many people coming back from vacationing in Thailand is about the fish sauce with chili pepper. You'd often see the a jar of fish sauce with sliced of tiny red and green chili peppers floating inside, sitting on a table at Thai eateries. To the Thais, chili fish sauce is our number one must-have condiments. No matter how tasteless the food is, the chili fish sauce will magically make everything delicious.
Green Mango Chili Fish Sauce, based on chili fish sauce, has the addition of shredded green mango and lime juice. This variation makes a great universal dipping sauce or a base for Thai salad dressing.
If you ever wonder what an average Thai eats at home, and if you could peer into their windows, you would often see a grilled catfish, fried fish or dried smoked fish eaten with this Green Mango Chili Fish Sauce. A Thai living abroad like me relishes Green Mango Chili Fish Sauce whenever I can get my hand on a green mango. With a bowl of rice, fried egg and this sauce is a meal I'm content.
Many people shy away from serving tofu due to the monotonousness of the bland taste. But Fried Tofu makes use of its tasteless white flesh. In this dish, the tofu serves as a building block in bringing a colorful, flavorful sauce that makes the blandness a welcome complement.
The white smooth tofu is transformed after frying into golden, spongy goodness dressed with spicy peanut dipping sauce. The white spongy texture holds the sauce so well that each bite becomes an addictive contrasts between the tofu and the spicy, sour and nutty sauce.
Fried Tofu is a big hit among my vegetarian and vegan friends.
Shrimp Paste Rice tastes like home to me. It combines all the core ingredients, shrimp paste, dried shrimp, green mango, chili peppers, lime and shallots, into one dish. The rice is mixed with shrimp paste and dressed with fried beaten egg, shredded green mango, fried dried shrimp, sliced shallots and hot chili peppers. Additional lime juice enhances the sourness. Contrasting the flavor of shrimp paste, the rice is eaten with sweetened pork.
On my plate, I mix the rice with sliced shallots, fried dried shrimp, shredded green mango, hot chili and fried scrambled egg. The delightful aroma of different strong ingredients hit my nose. I tame the shrimp paste scent with lime juice. Each bite, I taste the shrimp paste and the crunchy fried dried shrimp. In between, I cut the shrimp paste flavor with sweetened pork. It's more than just a good dish, it's a complete visit to Thailand.
Shrimp Paste Rice seems like a lot of ingredients and sounds daunting, but it actually has many simple steps. To the Thais, this dish is cobbling up ingredients at hand and making a new dish. Shrimp paste, shallots, hot chilies, dried shrimp are common, comparable to the mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup in most western homes. Many Thai families grow green mangoes in their yards or gardens.
I love the simplicity of Shrimp Paste Rice, so, occasionally, when I see restaurants unnecessarily complicating it, I'm always surprised. Many restaurants in Thailand prepare this dish by turning it into a fried rice, which totally misses the beauty and is a distortion from its name 'klook'. Klook means to mix together. A newer version of the rice also includes fresh green beans. For me, feeling at home is to have the version that I grew up with, pure and simple.
A funny name for a dish but this is the favorite among kids. Just about every Thai mother has made son-in-law eggs for her kids.
Boiled eggs are fried until golden brown and served with sweet and sour sauce. Son-in-law Eggs have all the Thai flavors: sweet and sour, with or without heat. For the adult version, fried chili peppers are served on the side.
Firm tofu has less water content than soft or silky tofu. It looks similar to feta cheese and has feta cheese’s firmness but is not crumbly. During the tofu making process, the holes inside the tofu are formed when the tofu curds are pressed together to get rid of water.
The tofu is usually sold in a sealed plastic tub with water. After the package is open, change water daily and keep tofu submerged in the water to keep it fresh. Keep the tofu refridgerated and use it within a few days.
At some Asian stores, you might want to look for tofu in a large tub with several pieces of tofu lying submerged on the bottom of the tub. When you get the tofu home, keep it submerged under water and refridgerated.